Every product in this skin-care line by MIT grads is under $30 — and they all work better than the luxury options I’ve tried

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Maelove

It doesn’t take long in a Sephora to realize that luxury skin care is not affordable. Tubs of La Mer go for $325, and there’s an $80 Peter Thomas Roth mask with pure 24-karat gold inside of it.

But, if you know where to look, you can get luxury skin-care products made in the same premium cosmetics labs for a fraction of the cost.

Take Maelove, for instance. The company was founded by MIT grads (skin-care obsessives, brain and cancer researchers, and chemical engineers) to democratize high-end skin care. Formulas are based more firmly in exhaustive research than the farm-to-face movement, and each product in the line is listed under $30.

It’s remarkably cheap.

If I could only buy skin care from one line for the rest of my life, this is the one that I would pick. The products work well, they’re not expensive, and the startup hasn’t been wrong yet. Like the loophole of buying Differin gel rather than Differin cream to save $200, Maelove is one way to save hundreds on the essentials without making any concessions when it comes to what goes into the products themselves.

How Maelove made good skin care cheap:

Longtime skin-care obsessive Jackie Kim wanted to make skin care more accessible, and co-founders and friends Brad and Rishi were looking for ways to apply artificial intelligence techniques to unexpected industries. Skin care – with its glamour, subterfuge, and markups – seemed like a natural fit.

The team recruited friends from all disciplines – cancer and brain researchers, chemical engineers, lawyers, and medical doctors – to hone in on the research without the baggage of preconceived notions.

They leveraged artificial-intelligence techniques to scan millions of self-reported product reviews to determine which ingredients correlated with success, and which to avoid. From there, Kim applied a similar approach to securing a partnership with one of the world’s best cosmetics labs by cold-calling hundreds of people who worked at luxury brands she admired, following up with the tiny percentage that responded, and eventually getting enough insight from a handful of respondents to make real inroads.

By selling online in a no-frills, direct-to-consumer marketplace and using primarily word-of-mouth press, the company keeps costs low without cutting corners on the product.

Maelove, $28

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Maelove

What to buy:

The Glow Maker ($28) is a vitamin c serum that brightens your complexion, evens tone, and lightens dark spots. It’s lightweight and sinks in quickly and completely without leaving any tacky residue. And while vitamin c serums can be drying, Maelove’s iteration has a botanical blend and hyaluronic acid (which can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water) to prevent it.

Consumers have been quick to note the Glow Maker has a very similar ingredient list to the multi-award-winning C E Ferulic Serum ($166), despite being more than $130 cheaper. You can find a full review here, including a side-by-side breakdown of the ingredient lists.

The One Cream ($27.95) is an everyday moisturizer that will deeply hydrate without clogging pores. It’s good for all skin types, and it goes on lightweight and absorbs quickly and completely. When I’m not testing another cream, this is the one I prefer – there’s never any irritation to my sensitive skin, and it deals with dry patches well. You can find a full review here.

The Eye Enhancer ($27.95) hydrates, tightens, and brightens the delicate skin around your eyes. A little goes a long way, and it absorbs into the skin for an all-day brightness and de-puffing boost. Cold-pressed Robusta Coffee seed extract, which is full of antioxidants and polypehnols, reduces water retention and puffiness, and a botanical complex soothes the thin, sensitive skin around your eyes.

The Day Eraser ($18.95) is a thicker, more oily cousin to a great micellar water. Maelove went through over 90 product iterations before landing on this one. It’s a two-in-one makeup remover and face cleanser that respects the skin’s natural moisture barrier and doesn’t leave it feeling stripped or dry. It can remove waterproof makeup and still leave skin feeling smooth and hydrated. Unlike most oil cleansers, it shouldn’t leave a film behind or clog up pores. Personally, I use it as a makeup remover and a pre-cleanser before applying my face wash. It’s gentle, silky, and doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin.

And while I haven’t personally tried the Night Renewer ($27.95), it has nearly 400 reviews and a five-star composite rating. After years of research, the company was able to make a Glycolic Acid cream that was safe and effective for sensitive skin. It improves skin texture, fades dark spots, and diminishes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and pores. This formula also has 10% medical-grade AHA, a blend of soothing ingredients, and Hyaluronic Acid for hydration.

The bottom line:

This radically affordable luxury skin-care line is the real deal. Maelove makes both some of the best and the cheapest skin-care products that I’ve found. And while I don’t often get to stick to my own skin-care routine as a product reviewer, I’ve surprised myself by preferring to use the cheaper Maelove products over luxury skin care I often test for work.

I recommend Maelove to everyone who asks me for recommendations for a new everyday go-to product because it works for all skin types and doesn’t cost much, but skin care is also a notoriously subjective experience. What works for me may not work for you – even a skin care line built to cater to every skin type. Luckily, Maelove has a 100-day, 100% money-back guarantee, so you’re not risking much if you want to give it a try yourself.

Shop Maelove here